Archive for the ‘Saving Change (frugal living)’ Category

The Grocery Challenge

A few years ago, Mark and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”.  When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of (agency went bankrupt, stranding our kids with three days of food left half a world away), a real estate holding disaster, the area of Mark’s work being hit hard by the economy, and Gracelyn becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of.  Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily.  It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.

After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because Mark’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt.  Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan.  Things only got worse.  Burying your head in the sand helps no one!

Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March.  This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan.  What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt.  I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt.  The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.

I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March.  Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat!  What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry.  I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list.  My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches.  Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)


Chicken Fried Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Mexican Lasagna

Not-so-chili pasta

Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables

Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms


Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn

Beef Hash

Soup made from leftovers

Asparagus and Asiago Quiche

Cod and French Fries

Tamale Pie

Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole

Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas

Tortellini Soup

Meatballs and Rice

Soup made from leftovers

Beef Hash

Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans


Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas

Tamale Pie

Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots

Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole

Meatballs and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn

Macaroni Casserole

Pinto Tortilla Soup

Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers

Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers

Voila!  31 Suppers!

For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.

Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.

The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Sedaya, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes.  I am excited to see how it goes!

Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted.

I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start.  I will let you know how it goes!

Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:



A Culinary Celebration of Fall

Fall is here, my favourite season, and with it comes all the delicious food associated with this time.  This week, I tried to incorporate as much of the season as I could into my cooking, using the last of the vegetables from my garden and taking advantage of all the free apples I had been given.

This apple, zucchini, asparagus and feta pizza was absolutely delicious!  Even some of the kids liked it.

Our neighbours have apple trees and weren’t going to be using the fruit so they told our kids that they could pick as many as they wanted.  Thankfully, my kids love to apple pick, so between that and the apples given to me by my friend Glenda and my aunt, I had plenty.  Other than this pizza, I also made applesauce, apple filling, 4 Amish Friendship loaves with apple, and apple crisp.  I didn’t want to do any canning, so I just filled sandwich bags with applesauce, then put four sandwich bags into a large freezer bag and froze them.  I did applesauce this way last year too and loved how it worked out.  The smaller bags are a great size for pulling one or two out at a time for snacks or to add into a muffin recipe.  All the free apples sure saved us a lot of money too!

This super easy crock pot tortellini soup is such a great make-ahead.  Perfect for lunch on a homeschool day or with a hearty bread for a comfort meal supper.

It’s not the best picture, but these pouches of roasted root vegetables are one of my favourite things about fall.  Garden zucchini and carrots, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, yams, and purple onions with a tiny bit of butter and some seasoning…yum!

The rosemary roasted potatoes were actually a bit dry but still tasty enough.  The fish (basa) with sun dried tomato pesto sauce was a huge hit with two of our kids, but the rest of us didn’t care for it much.  I usually make this fish with salsa but wanted to try something different.

I made a delectable late night appetizer of mango salsa on brie to spread onto French bread slices…it was eaten too quickly for photos!  I also made muffins using a recipe my niece Amy gave me.  I have been enjoying Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake Muffins every morning since!  This weekend, I am planning to continue to enjoy the tastes of autumn by making my sweet potato casserole and making a batch of pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cookies to freeze.  What are your favourite fall recipes?

Why “Pockets of Change”?

Those who have followed my private blog for the past five years may be wondering about the reason behind this new blog and its unusual name.  The easy answer about why I have started this blog is that I wanted a blog that could be more public.  The name “pockets of change” refers to three types of change.  There is actual pocket change of course.  To this end, I will try to share the tips I have found for saving money.  With such a large family, finding ways to stretch a dollar is always handy.  I will also be trying new budgeting ideas and sharing how they work for us.

The second meaning of the pockets of change idea is that there are changes that I am trying to make and keep myself accountable about.  I know that if I am writing publicly about these attempted changes, it will increase my chances of success.  Some of these changes include cooking healthier and more creative meals for my family, being more structured and scheduled in my homeschooling, living on a set budget, creating time to spend with Mark and each of the kids individually, making fun family theme nights, pursuing my writing, finding time to scrapbook, nurturing friendships, and being open to the life God has planned for me.

The third meaning of pockets of change is looking for opportunities that I can, as an individual, create positive change in the world.  What can I do to help the orphans in the world?  How can I support hurting people in my own community?  How can I promote awareness about the blessing of adoption?  How can I raise money for projects in Africa that I am passionate about?  If all of us are looking for little pockets of opportunities where we can make a difference, together, we can!

So there you have it…a new blog is born!  My plan is to have Fridays be Food Fridays where I share great recipes or warn about not-so-great culinary attempts.  I am also going to participate in Weekly Wrap-Up where on Saturdays, I will do a recap of our homschooling week.  I will also share my successful and less than successful ideas to incorporate more fun into our life while cutting expenses.  So welcome to the new blog!  Have a look around and please be sure to leave a comment as going into a more public format makes me a bit nervous and I’m not used to the silence!

P.S.  my sister-in-law C. actually came up with the name after the three million or so that I thought of were already taken!

With a little creativity…

Mark and I have been trying to think of ideas to have fun, spend time with other adults, spend time with each other, and laugh more.  As you can imagine, with seven children, our social life is not that exciting!  One of the changes we are trying to make is to increase these opportunities for ourselves while sticking to our new budget.

One of the ideas we have come up with is to host once or twice a month small dinner parties here.  This will give me the chance to try out new recipes that do not have to be kid-friendly and Mark and I the chance to talk to other adults.  Most of our kids go to bed early so it is easy enough to feed them something easy, put them to bed, and then have our adult meal.

Friday was our first attempt and it went so well!  My only regret is not taking more pictures.  The one photo that Mark did take does not do justice to the food, the fun, or the decor.  We had two couples over, Mark’s brother E. and his wife C. and our good friends T. and B.

I planned a Thai theme because I had always wanted to learn to make salad rolls.    The decorating was easy and very inexpensive.  I bought a straw beach mat for $0.57 at an end of season summer sale and used it as our tablecloth.  I placed three tea lights on the table along with an ornamental pepper plant that was less than $3.  We already had some Asian dishes and I bought more on sale (less than $30 for six sets of plates, sauce dishes, chopsticks, and chopstick holders – we will use them again).  I also bought six Asian soup spoons for a few dollars in total.

The food was excellent!  B. brought a nutty chicken curry and a thai sweet rice dessert with mango.  I made a hot and sour soup that was not authentically thai but was a great kick-off anyway.  The salad rolls were spectacular, as was the satay sauce I made to go with them.  I cheated on the Thai Sweet Chili dipping sauce though and poured it right out of a jar!  For the main course, I made fragrant rice, green curry with peas, red curry with chicken and peppers, and a shrimp and vegetable stir fry with fresh basil from our garden.

The one area we did splurge on was drinks.  I made a strawberry lemonade with fresh lemons and berries and we bought Singha (thai) beer and wine.  We are not big drinkers, so this was an unusual treat.

The evening was full of lively conversation and laughter.  I was able to eat delicious spicy food and share in the company of great people.  All told, the evening cost less than it would have cost Mark and I to get a babysitter and go out for dinner by ourselves.  We are already planning the next dinner party and tossing around theme ideas!